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Saint Joan

(1957 b 111')

En: 6 Ed: 7

Adapted by Graham Greene from the play by George Bernard Shaw, Joan of Arc follows the guidance of her voices and persuades the Dauphin to be crowned king and appoint her to lead the armies and drive out the English from Orleans. Captured by the English, Joan is put on trial and condemned.

            The elderly Charles VII (Richard Widmark)  is having trouble sleeping. He calls to Michel and Pierre. He gets up and walks with a candle in the castle and finds them sleeping on the floor. He sees a guard on the stairs and goes back to bed. He mutters about the English. Joan of Arc (Jean Seberg) appears by his bed and says he is asleep, and no one will hear him. He asks if she is dead. She says she is but is in his dream. He asks if it hurt much. She was not in her right mind until she was free of her body. The aged Charles says she was given another trial and was acquitted. She says she will be remembered longer than her memorial cross. He says she always got her own way. She says it was a matter of eggs.

            Robert de Baudricourt (Archie Duncan) says he has the best hens, but a poor man says there are no eggs because of a girl sitting there. Baudricourt tells the old man to remove her, or he will throw him down the well. Baudricourt calls her, and she calls him a captain and asks him for a horse and armor so that she can go to her lord. She says her lord is the king of heaven. Baudricourt says he will send her back to her father. She insists on the horse and says the Dauphin will give her soldiers to raise the siege of Orleans. He asks how old she is, and she says she is seventeen. She hears Saint Margaret and others but does not want to talk about her voices which she says come from God. She is going to make the English leave France. He asks if she has seen the “God-damns” fighting. She says the French soldiers are fighting for their own skins, but she will teach them to fight for the will of God in France which will have one king. Baudricourt sees the troops are listening and says maybe the Dauphin will swallow it too. He orders three men to with her to the Dauphin, and she asks for a letter.

            Joan rides on a horse ahead of the three soldiers and sees a man hanged. They arrive in a castle, and she shows her letter to the Dauphin. She says she rode from Vaucouleur and hands over the letter. A man tries to assault Joan sexually, and she says he is near his end. He falls and dies.

            The Dauphin (Richard Widmark) receives the letter, and an officer takes it from him. The Archbishop of Rheims (Finlay Currie) gets the letter and reprimands the Dauphin, who complains he is always lecturing him. The archbishop reads the letter and refers to the Dauphin’s wise grandfather. A soldier comes in and tells them how the girl predicted the man’s death and that Baudricourt sent them an angel, not a girl. A noble says he will pretend to be the Dauphin to see if she will be able to identify the Dauphin. Joan is brought in and approaches the throne, but she says that Bluebeard cannot fool her. She looks around for the Dauphin and finds him sitting behind others. She says she was sent to drive the English away from Orleans and out of France. The Dauphin says she knew the blood royal. He advises her to talk to the archbishop. She kneels before him, and he has her stand. He says she is in love with religion which can be dangerous. She says it must be wonderful to be an archbishop. She asks him to send the people away so that she can speak alone to the Dauphin. They leave, and the Dauphin says the Archbishop does not let him have friends. She asks if he is afraid, and he admits he is. He is weak and does not like fighting. He wants to be left alone and did not ask to be king. He says he cannot help her. She says he must do God’s will. She suggests he sit on the throne, and he does so. She says he is not king yet until he is anointed at Rheims cathedral. She asks why the Queen does not take care of him. He says he is not a fool. He says a good treaty is better than fighting. She says he must fight and pray for courage. She realizes he has never prayed and urges him to fight for his little son. He tells her to mind her own business. She says they are to do God’s business. He asks her for secrets and miracles. She says she will turn him into a king. She says she got her strength from working on the land. He is to rule his land for God. She asks him not to be a Judas who betrays her and the one who sent her. He considers it and says he will risk it. He puts on a hat and opens the curtain. The people are playing blind man’s bluff. The Dauphin says he has given command of his army to Joan the Maid. The commander objects, and the Dauphin snaps his fingers.

            Soldiers in their camp are preparing for battle. The officers discuss what tactics to use. Dunois (Richard Todd) the Bastard of Orleans tells them the Dauphin is sending them a girl. Joan arrives on a horse with four men. She finds no preparations for attack, and Dunois says they are waiting for more men. She says she is bringing the help and counsel of the king of heaven. He shows her the bridge, and she urges an attack.  He says the fort can be easily held by the English. Joan says she will take that fort. She does not dress as a woman but is a soldier. He says they can cross the river and take them in the rear. He is waiting for a west wind. Joan prays for it. Suddenly soldiers run up, and one says that the wind has changed. Dunois gives her command of his army. They cross the river.

            The archbishop in the cathedral picks up the crown and makes the Dauphin King Charles VII. People cheer and sing as the King marches out. Joan is wearing armor and kneels before the statue of a female saint. Charles goes into a room with the archbishop and asks for help with the things he was carrying and in removing heavy robes. Joan comes and kisses his hand. She says her work is finished, and she will go back to her father’s farm. Charles offers to help her, and she leaves. In the sanctuary she cries, and Dunois stands by her. She says she was frightened before the battle, but now it is dull. He suggests moderation in war. He says she does not have many friends at court. She asks why. She asked only that her village not be taxed. She wonders why they do not love her. He asks if she expects them to love her for showing them up. She says her voices are in the sound of the bells. He says that makes him nervous. She says her voices come first. She wishes she could nurse him like a baby. She urges him to go on and take Paris. He says they may not let him, and he asks what her voices say. She says they are not always with her. She kneels and prays.

            Charles is playing hopscotch when Joan comes in. She asks why he is not on the way to Paris, and he says they can make a good treaty now. He says war can be fought with astuteness and paper. She says he must hold Paris to be a true king of France. She asks the archbishop to take her side, and they argue. Joan says she knows better because of her voices. Charles asks why the voices do not come to him. She says he does not listen to them. She says they must advance to Paris and asks Dunois to back her up. Charles says he has no money. Joan says the church is rich and asks for the archbishop’s blessing. He says the voice of God on earth is the voice of the church. The archbishop warns her that the church may disown her if she believes she is superior. She asks Dunois what he thinks. He says God was on her side, but he says God is no man’s daily drudge. He says the numbers have been on her side so far; but when she has fewer men, she will find that God is on the side of large battalions. She says they followed her. He says times have changed, and attacking Paris would be foolish. She had  hoped to find friends of France at the court, but she is being cast out. She says France and God are alone. She says the loneliness of God is his strength, and she will be alone too. God will not fail her. She will dare until she dies. She tells the archbishop that he will be glad to see her burnt. She leaves.

            Elderly Charles tells Joan that they gave her good advice that might have saved her life. She says the pain of life is counted in years. Suddenly the Earl of Warwick (John Gielgud) appears and says he bought her when she was knocked off her horse. He says he came to apologize because her burning was political. They shake hands. Warwick says he helped make her a saint. Her burning has made her more talked about.

            Warwick and a boy look in a window and see the Inquisitor (Felix Aylmer) questioning chained Joan in her cell. She says Bishop Cauchon of  Beauvais (Anton Walbrook) sent her some carp that made her ill. She asks why they leave her in the hands of the English who want to burn her. They ask her why she left the tower. She tried to escape, and they accuse her of heresy. She says she is faithful to the church. She will not go against what she is commanded by God. Brother Martin (Kenneth Haigh) advises her to take back her words. The Inquisitor says he has the executioner ready. The churchmen go out, and some men bring in instruments of torture. They lay her body on the machine, and Warwick makes the boy Peter leave with him.

            Warwick tells his chaplain John de Stogumber (Harry Andrews) they are going to torture her, and John says that is cheating. Warwick explains that nationalism is bad for them if people call themselves French and English. Bishop Cauchon of Beauvais comes in. John says she had her throat pierced by a spear, but she survived. John says she has proved herself to be a witch. Cauchon says she is only a heretic.

            Joan is screaming, and the Inquisitor comes in with Courcelles (Barry Jones) who asks if she is hurt. She says no, but she does not take back her words. The Inquisitor tells Warwick that they will proceed to her trial.

            Brother Martin has been praying. Warwick asks John to do what he can. The Inquisitor and the Bishop of  Beauvais take the seats of the judges. John objects. The Inquisitor says he has reduced the prosecution’s 64 points to 12. John complains. The Inquisitor ignores misdemeanors and says heresy is a big thing. He makes a speech about morality.

            Guards bring Joan up from her cell to the court. The Inquisitor warns the listeners about anger and pity but not mercy, though justice comes first. Joan approaches and sits. The Inquisitor asks her to swear she will tell the whole truth. She says God does not allow the whole truth to be told. She says whoever tells too much truth will be condemned to be hanged. She says she will swear no more. She says torture may make her say whatever they want, but she will take it back later. Courcelles says it is always done, but the Inquisitor disagrees. Joan makes fun of Courcelles. The bishop accuses her of wearing men’s clothes and that she hears voices. The Inquisitor says her voices are from the devil. The bishop asks if she will change to female clothes. She says the voices tell her to dress as a soldier. The Inquisitor asks her to believe the church rather than her voices. She says what they call her pride she does by the command of God. Brother Martin takes her aside and urges her to obey the church. She says she must use her own judgment. She asks God to bring her into grace or keep her in it. The executioner is asked if he is ready for the burning, and he says they are ready. Bishop Cauchon says 800 English soldiers are ready to take her to the marketplace as soon as she is excommunicated. She says the voices promised her she would not be burned. She is told they have betrayed her, and Martin says the church holds out its arms to her. She admits her voices have deceived her. Only a fool walks into a fire. She has common sense from God and does not want that. She collapses, and Martin puts her on a chair. The bishop says she has been saved. John complains, and the Inquisitor reprimands him for calling them traitors. Martin reads her recantation of various sins that she swears to and may sign. The Inquisitor asks her if this is true. She says it is true because the fire is ready for her. Martin helps her sign the document. The Inquisitor praises God that she has returned to the flock and walks to the altar where they all pray.

            John runs out to Warwick and says they cheated them. Warwick says he has 800 soldiers. He asks what if the Pope finds her innocent. Warwick says she will burn before he hears of it and calls a captain.

            The Inquisitor reads the sentence of the court. Because she has repented, they condemn her to be imprisoned for the rest of her life. Joan asks Martin if she is not to be set free. He says she is dreaming. She picks up the recantation and rips it up. She is now ready for the fire. She says they promised her her life, but they lied. She can live on bread on water, but to be shut from the sky and the fields and flowers is not bearable. She cries and sits down. She can do without her warhorse and wear a skirt if she could be in the sunshine. She says their counsel is of the devil and that hers is of God. She tells Martin that God’s ways are not their ways. She must go through the fire to be with God. The Inquisitor and the bishop declare that she is to be excommunicated. English soldiers come in and take her away. The Inquisitor says this interruption may have consequences later.

            The soldiers take Joan through the crowded streets. John mounts the platform and tries to speak to the noisy crowd. The executioners lift Joan up to the stake and chain her by the neck. A soldier breaks a stick and ties it into a cross. He climbs up over the wood and puts it in her hand. The fire burns, and the flames catch on her clothes. She can no longer be seen because of the flames.

            John runs back to Warwick and asks him to pray for him. He is crying and says he did not know what he was doing. He calls himself a fool who will be damned. He says he killed her, but Warwick says it was not his doing. He tells how an English soldier gave her the two sticks in a cross. Warwick tells him to control  himself. Warwick looks out the window and tells John it is all over. John goes out, and the executioner comes in and tells Warwick that his orders were obeyed. Warwick insists that nothing will remain as relics.

            Joan speaks to the older Warwick and says he never curses or prayed. Warwick says she should blame Cauchon, who appears and says he lies. Joan asks if he is dead or alive. He says he was excommunicated after his death. He did what he thought was right. Charles says the big men do the most mischief. He says he did well as king. Dunois appears and tells Joan that his body is asleep in bed. He says her way always won. He wrote a letter to ask for a new trial. A man appears and says he is a saint from hell. He did one good action, and Joan says he tied two sticks of wood together. He does not remember her. He has one day as a saint before he has to go back to hell. He says wars are bad for the poor. He says France is now a republic. Joan tells Charles that she is a saint and can work miracles. She asks if she should rise from the dead. Warwick says Rome should decide. Dunois asks her to forgive them. They each disappear, and Charles goes back to bed. The poor man says he has to go below. Joan is left alone, and she prays to God who made the beautiful earth. She asks how long it will be before it is ready to receive his saints. Charles puts his head under the covers.

            This biographical drama of young Joan’s trial is generally accurate and is intellectually stimulating as a debate without showing Joan in battle. This most extraordinary teenager in the history of the world did in fact help the French gain the momentum that led to their expelling the invading English from France.

Copyright © 2012 by Sanderson Beck

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